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Gerry Wood: A legacy of entrepreneurial spirit and generosity

Posted on: November 03, 2017 | Author: Amanda Hiebert

Gerry Wood, one of Alberta’s most celebrated entrepreneurs, was inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame last month. Our team at ATB was there to celebrate his great achievement and his impact on the Alberta business landscape. When asked what the keys to success are for being an entrepreneur, Wood responded without hesitation.

His story, by way of advice:

Never be satisfied with the norm

Gerry worked at his father’s Ford dealership in Scotland before he chose to embark on a world tour. He left Glasgow in 1969, sailing from Liverpool with the intention of visiting the United States, Canada and New Guinea. Plans changed when he ran out of money in Calgary.

Telegrams charged by the letter, so he kept things short in a message to his father. It read, “No mon. No fun. Your son.” His father responded, “Too bad. So sad. Your dad.”

Gerry was left to pull himself up by his bootstraps. After a short time in construction, he became a salesman at Maclin Motors.

Work hard

In 1979, he purchased a GM dealership in Vulcan and managed 15 employees. The team worked around the clock, establishing a direct line to Calgary (quite the feat at the time). He was determined to have no returns from the “city” run. Gerry recalls, “A lot of sleepless nights where four hours a day was the order of the day.”

Then he got creative. He introduced a referral project, offering customers $25 to bring new prospects his way. Locals had taught this city kid the true value of negotiation.

Always want to get better

The team of 15 grew to 150 employees in 1983. Wood purchased what is now Woodridge Ford Lincoln, as well as Village Honda in 1987. Many team members are still with the organization to this day.

The Wood Automotive Group now boasts seven (including Cavalcade Auto Acceptance) dealerships and a collision centre. These include Okotoks Ford Lincoln, Advantage Ford Sales, Big 4 Motors and Driverz Auto Sales Ltd.

Gerry is quick to recognize his previous and current business partners, Ken Stevenson and Dr. Peter Finch, along with the many mentors and advisors he met coming up in the industry. “They would often caution me, and give me a kick in the pants from time to time.” Mentors never turned him away. “Because of their advice, I have been very lucky.”

Today, the business employs more than 600 people throughout the Calgary area. His three children–Rory, Megan and Cailean–all play an integral role in ongoing operations throughout the business.

Dare to be different

Gerry is a respected philanthropist who supports multiple not-for-profit initiatives. He and his wife Elaine are strong supporters of the Woodridge PREP Centre. It promotes the inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome in home, school and community life. Elaine worked tirelessly to help them raise nearly four million dollars with an annual Woodridge Charity Golf Tournament.

The Woods are also heavily involved in work with the Salvation Army, Calgary Handibus, The Mustard Seed, and Inclusion Alberta. But why stop there? Committed to enabling organizations who work to empower children, The Wood Group is a major sponsor of the Shaw Charity Classic Golf Tournament and they created the Wood Automotive Group Kid Hero of the Month Award in support of KidSport and Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank.

Gerry Wood is a Scotsman, a visionary and a philanthropist through and through. His commitment to making Alberta a better place to live and work defines what it means to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

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